Misogyny 'rife' on football message boards with fans expressing 'hostile and sexist attitudes', research finds

January 20, 2022

Football fan message boards are rife with "openly misogynistic" attitudes towards women's sport among male supporters, according to new research.

The Durham University study found that while progressive views were "strongly represented", they were "not as common as hostile and sexist attitudes".

The researchers suggest this is proof of a backlash against the increased visibility of women's sport since the 2012 London Olympic Games and the 2015 Women's World Cup.

One in five women suffer unwanted attention at football matches

Lead author Dr Stacey Pope, from Durham University's Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, said: "Our research showed that attitudes towards women in sport are, to some extent, changing, with more progressive attitudes.

"However, the findings are also reflective of a patriarchal society in which misogyny is rife.

"There were numerous examples of men from across all generations exhibiting highly sexist and misogynistic attitudes."

Based on answers to the open-ended questions in the survey, the fans could broadly be split into three groups who showed progressive masculinities, overt misogynistic masculinities, or covert misogynistic masculinities.

Men with progressive attitudes showed strong support for equality in media coverage of women's sport, with many saying that the 2015 Women's World Cup had been a positive turning point.

The fans who held openly misogynistic attitudes towards women's sport saw it as inferior to men's sport, particularly in relation to football.

Some said women should not participate in sport at all, or if they did, it should be in "feminine" sports, such as athletics.

There was also extreme hostility towards increasing media coverage of women's sport, which was seen as "positive discrimination" or "PC nonsense".

Increase in media coverage of women's sport a 'visible threat' for some

The final group of fans, who were in the minority, would express progressive attitudes in public but in more private moments reveal misogynistic views.

Co-author John Williams, from the University of Leicester, said: "The increase in media coverage of women's sport on both the BBC and subscription channels was openly supported by some men.

"But it also clearly represents, for others, a visible threat - an attack on football as an arena for 'doing' masculinity."

The study, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), is published in the academic journal Sociology and was led by Durham University with researchers at the University of Leicester and University of South Australia.

It surveyed 1,950 male football fans who responded to a call for participants on 150 UK online forums.

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